Shakespeare's Portrayal Of Macbeth's Inner Goodness To Evoke Sympathy From The Audience

1156 words - 5 pages

By conventional standard of judgment, the character of Macbeth might be dubbed as ‘evil’ or ‘wicked’ for the execution of three murders. However, Macbeth is not solely merciless, as it might seem at first glance. Shakespeare employs devices which add a spark of humaneness to Macbeth and do not merely depict him as a ruthless murderer, thus making him susceptible to sympathy of the audience.
Shakespeare introduces Macbeth as a brave, honorable, and loyal man, instead of portraying him as a character with inherent vices. He presents a descent of an honorable man to a ‘butcher’ to the audience, which pleads for great sympathy. Macbeth is hailed as ‘noble,’ ‘valiant’ and ‘brave’ for his display of valor in the war against Norway. Fearless Macbeth ‘unseam[s]’ the traitorous Macdonwald ‘from the nave to th' chops.’ This bloody visualization of Macbeth splitting Macdonwald from the belly to the jawbone reinforces his bravery and loyalty to the king and Scotland. Macbeth’s great military feat grants him honorable titles and displays him as a loyal subject. Thus, the initial impression of Macbeth is highly admirable to the audience. If Shakespeare had depicted Macbeth as a character with innate evil characteristics, the audience would feel no pity for him, through course of the play, as it would be expected for such man to commit such deeds. However, it is the transition of an honorable man to a wicked one that begs for sympathy.
Shakespeare evokes sympathy by dissimulating and distancing away Macbeth from the murders. Macbeth never uses the term ‘king’ to describe his coveted position or the deed he must perform to reach that stature. Instead, he indirectly refers to it, by the use of phrases such as ’swelling act of imperial theme,’ and ‘surcease.’ The fact that Shakespeare chooses to express Macbeth’s plans in euphemisms, displays Macbeth’s hesitancy and perhaps even a desire not to commit a murder. These euphemisms mitigate the nature of the impending deed and provide Macbeth with temporary peace of mind. They mask Macbeth’s plan to murder the king, which is somewhat consoling for him, if only at surface level. This calls for sympathy, since Macbeth is not entirely committed to execution of his plans and desperately attempts to cover them. In addition, Macbeth minimizes his talk about murders, he plans to commit. He acts instinctively. Macbeth admits that his ‘purpose cools’ as words give ‘a cold breath’ to the ‘heat of deeds.’ The more Macbeth reflects over the nature of the murders, more is he overcome with longing to discontinue the deed, at hand. Spoken words transform a mind’s thought to a reality, which Macbeth greatly fears. Even at the lowest point of the play when Macbeth orders the execution of Macduff’s family, Shakespeare uses this technique to remind the audience of Macbeth’s conscience. Macbeth screams, ‘no more sights’ and declares ‘no boasting like a fool, I will do [the deed] before this purpose cool’ (4.1.306). Words bring out...

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